Nicolas Anil puts forth five players from the Malaysia Super League and Premier League who must be part of Tan Cheng Hoe’s plans for the AFF Suzuki Cup.
The Malaysia national team are due to feature in a flurry of friendly matches over the next few months as they prepare for November’s AFF Suzuki Cup.
After finally winning a match after 16-months when they thrashed Bhutan 7-0 in April, national head coach Tan Cheng Hoe will aspire to command his best line-up for the upcoming friendlies.
While he might get obligated to choose some regular faces, it is mandatory he selects his best men purely on form.
Here are five players who are knocking hard on the national door after excelling in recent months.
Helmi Eliza (Pahang FA, goalkeeper)
It has been almost a decade since the Pahang custodian donned national colours, and there isn’t a better time for a long awaited call-up. Helmi has conceded 15 goals in the league so far, to keep Pahang within sight of a top-three finish. Only Farizal Marlias has done a better job with league leaders Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT). Helmi’s age of 35 belies his anticipation, awareness and agility, and he will justify the call-up should Tan take notice. Helmi has bailed his teammates out on a number of occasions this season, most recently against the Southern Tigers at Larkin Stadium. Based on current form, it is hard to overlook a shot-stopper like Helmi.
Hafiz Ramdan (PKNP FC, winger)
Abu Bakar Fadzim’s great work with his young, promising, local squad has shone through this year, and Hafiz Ramdan is one those precious gems. The 25-year-old has showed tremendous potential with his high work-rate and speed, while his character and dedication sets the ideal example for young players coming through the club. Against Selangor FA, Hafiz was nursing a high fever, but insisted on playing. He did, and ended up scoring a scorching last-minute equalizer at Cheras Stadium. This is the characteristics Tan will want in his team.
Faiz Nasir (Terengganu FC, midfielder)
This diminutive flier draws similar traits to Kedah’s young prodigy Akhyar Rashid. Explosive bursts of acceleration and nimble footwork that gives him the advantage to shift directions quickly in one-on-one situations. Faiz was one of the reasons for Terengganu gaining promotion to the top flight last season, and he has kept up that high tempo performance this year. Faiz can be Tan’s trump card when Malaysia are chasing a match with his pace and direct running. Doesn’t score that many goals, but can be counted on to create goalscoring opportunities.
Christie Jayaseelan (Felda United FC, midfielder)
Christie may be playing in the second division Premier League, but he has played a major role in Felda United standing on brink of the league title. The Fighters are 13 points clear in the Premier League with five games to play, a standing much owed to Christie’s penetration and pace from midfield. The 32-year-old has scored six goals so far, as well as contributing to the team’s goals in total. Christie has actually flourished in his more central role this season, but he is most comfortable on the wings taking on defenders. If Tan needs a fresh pair of legs who can make a difference, Christie could be that man.
N. Thanabalan (Negeri Sembilan FA, striker)
Thanabalan may have only scored three times for struggling Negeri Sembilan this season, but there is a romance between him and the national team. After playing a starring role for the Malaysia Under-23 team at the Southeast Asian Games football tournament last year, Thanabalan replicated that heroic feat with a crucial equalizer against South Korea in this year’s AFC U23 Championship. His deadly headers are his biggest asset, and his anticipation in the penalty box has been proven time and again. Perhaps it is now time for the hardworking striker to get a chance and prove his worth in the senior team.
Which other MSL players do you want to see in the Malaysian squad for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup?